We talked with experts to address these 11 real-life skills you can teach your child, no teaching degree required:
While stocking your first aid kit, ask your child if they know what each item is for and how to use it.
“With their brains rapidly developing until age 25, kids are like sponges, ready to soak in information and learn. Research shows that when parents are actively engaged in a child’s exploration of something new, they can enhance what a child learns,” said Dr. Neha Chaudhary, child and adolescent psychiatrist at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School and cofounder of Brainstorm, Stanford’s Lab for Mental Health Innovation.
It is never too early for a child to learn to be financially responsible, even if the child does not have a real bank account. “Since most teenagers get most of their money from the Mom and Dad, parents can require their kids to keep track of credits and debits in a checkbook,” said Tangela Walker-Craft, a family and parenting blogger and high school teacher in Florida. “Parents can give their child a set amount of money that they can spend each day, week, or month. If the child observes their mock bank account balance going up and down, it becomes a reality check for how they spend their money.”
At last, teach children that the clean-clothes fairy is a myth. “Naturally, there are certain life skills that every child needs to become a well-functioning, independent human being – cooking, cleaning, and organisation,” said Marie Heath, assistant professor of education at Loyola University Maryland. “I highly recommend these skills be taught, especially during a time when Mom and Dad have extra loads of dishes and laundry piling up.”
No, the wrinkled look is not in. At least it should not be.
“Even if a child is not yet old enough to use an iron, for example, they might be old enough to explore how such things work, storing the information away for later while actively engaging their minds in the process,” said Chaudhary.
Bonding over food is an activity that all ages can enjoy together.
“In our home, we’re doing a rotation where our kids take turns helping me cook dinner,” said Heath. “This gives kids the opportunity to put effort into a tangible goal and see it through – in this case, in the form of a nutritious meal. It also teaches them how to take ownership. By assigning them tasks such as defrosting an item or collecting the ingredients from the pantry, they’re learning personal responsibility.”
Former elementary school teacher, Allison Carver says after a few weeks of practice, kids over the age of five should be able to make breakfast on their own. “There are a bunch of kid safe knives you can buy online that actually cut food,” Carver said. “Practice cutting different types of foods and textures, teaching kids proper knife handling skills and safety. Have your kids make you a fruit salad for dinner at the end of the week.”
For this, you can enlist the help of YouTube to present a fun, educational video to kids while pointing out the extinguishers in your home.
“Parents should think about and ask themselves ‘what are all the things I wish I knew when I was on my own in college, had my first apartment, had my first job,’ then work backwards and make a list to go over with their kid,” said Robin F. Goodman, PhD, a clinical psychologist and art therapist in New York City.
Knowing how to do basic repairs will foster independence and later on, save your child money when encountering something that needs fixing.
“There’s a huge opportunity here for parents to ensure their kids are still learning without ever opening a textbook. Children have the opportunity to learn life skills from their parents – the kinds of things many people don’t get the chance to learn until they are much older,” said Chaudhary.
Not only is basic sewing easy to learn but younger kids love this activity.
“Learning such life skills are important because they equip your child with beneficial tools- which in turn produces self-confidence, knowledge, independence, assuming responsibility, and well-rounded human beings that contribute to the world around them,” said Dr. Melanie Ross Mills.
Your kids may do well talking to friends and family but become shy around new people. How can you help teach the art of conversation?
“Out in the world on their own, our kids will encounter many strangers – professors, coaches, advisors, landlords, store clerks, hairdressers, waiters, managers, and co-workers,” said Nancy Baker, managing editor of Childmode. “Our adult kids need to know how to look to these people in the eyes, clearly communicate with them, and possibly even advocate for themselves if need be.”
Teens and kids thrive on structure, but time management takes practice. “When many young people head to college or leave their home for the first time, they often have very little idea about how to manage their time responsibly,” said Bethany Raab, a social worker in Colorado. “Homework gets forgotten, classes get missed, work shifts get missed (or they are late!) and oversleeping can be a problem, too. It is hard to manage all of these things with little or no prior practice. I suggest that parents allow their children and teens to actively help design their daily schedule for this unusual time away from school.”